Is BYOD Bringing Your Own Demise? Five steps to make sure that your business doesn't get sucked in

BYOD allows employees to use devices with which they're familiar and comfortable, lowers the costs associated with acquiring, deploying and maintaining devices and reduces the number of required support personnel.

However, so enthusiastic has been their response to BYOD that many businesses have failed to think through the new breed of risks and vulnerabilities that this approach ushers in. Indeed, many early adopters are currently reining in or revisiting their BYOD ventures altogether, having had their fingers burned.

It is vital for organisations to understand that once committed to a BYOD initiative, it can be challenging and costly to back-pedal and reverse-engineer a programme.

When it comes to BYOD, it’s far better to get it right the first time. Therefore it’s critical to clarify what business outcomes need to be achieved and thoroughly assess all the legal, licensing, management and security implications, before taking the plunge.

Often, one of the most common stumbling blocks for those that rush a BYOD programme relates to mismatched company/user expectations, failure to take into account the relative risk profiles or different device types, poorly defined service level agreements and licensing bungles.

In fact according to the recent Dimension Data 2013 Global UCC study conducted by Ovum only 38 per cent of large enterprises globally reported that they profiled their users when implementing unified communications and collaboration strategies and almost a quarter of UK firms indicating support for employee owned devices without official vetting.

To ensure that any BYOD policy benefits both the business and employees, there are a number of steps that should be undertaken:

  • Survey your user base

It’s not uncommon for BYOD programmes to falter due to unmet expectations on the part of users. Don’t assume you know what your employees want or expect from a BYOD initiative. By doing so, you’ll run the risk of even greater levels of dissatisfaction post deployment than before. Ask employees what device − or devices − they’d ideally like to make use of in the workplace and for which tasks. Establish whether they would prefer to purchase their own devices or use those owned by the company. Survey the employees and set up a user community forum to get buy-in from the users.

  • Balance device risk profiles

From a security perspective, all mobile devices are not created equal. A typical smartphone, for example, costs a few hundred pounds and involves relatively low security risks and licensing costs – all of which make it a strong candidate for inclusion in a BYOD programme. Laptops, however, are a bit trickier – they’re more expensive and represent a larger business risk, as they carry more data. For many businesses, the hazards of supporting a ‘bring your own laptop’ initiative often outweigh the benefits.

  • Define service level agreements

Poorly-defined service level expectations are often a subject of frustration and contention among early adopters of BYOD programmes. If an employee-owned device breaks for example, what’s the expectation for the employee to have the device repaired in a timely manner, to avoid productivity lapses?

  • Anticipate connectivity conundrums

Much of the negativity surrounding early BYOD deployments centred on connectivity issues. Given that your network is going to need to support a variety of new devices, be proactive about ensuring that user experience isn’t compromised by insufficient bandwidth. Here, network optimisation tools can be useful. In addition, consider upgrading the wireless network infrastructure in meeting rooms and communal areas.

  • Revisit licensing agreements

Many early BYOD adopters found that the anticipated cost savings of their BYOD initiatives were never realised, due to a subsequent upsurge in software licensing costs. This must be addressed before rolling out any BYOD programme. Equally, in order to comply with vendor licensing agreements, anticipate having to define a supported device list and terms of use.

Chris Nunn is Head of Architecture, Collaboration at Dimension Data